Even though the Heisman Trophy is supposed to be awarded to the country's top college football player, that doesn't always prove to be the case. In fact, there are plenty of instances where the best player has no real shot of winning the stiff-arm trophy. I know it's early, but this week's Top 10 list is best players with no shot of actually winning the Heisman:
- Eric Berry, Tennessee safety: The past few seasons have been dismal for Vol fans, but at least they have Berry. The guy is a ball-hawking, playmaking, vicious-hitting DB that probably would've been a top-five NFL draft pick had he been eligible to come out this year. Last season he not only had seven INTs for an amazing 265 return yards, he also proved to be an intimidator in the back of the UT defense. It's not a stretch to say Berry is better at his position than his competitors by a wider margin than anyone else in the country is at theirs.
- Brandon Spikes, Florida LB: Here is a great player on a great team. Spikes is a leader and he comes up big in big games. The snag, linebackers don't really have much hope of being awarded the Heisman, especially linebackers on the same team as Tim Tebow.
- Taylor Mays, USC safety: Every wide receiver's nightmare, Mays is a shocking blend of size (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) and burst (4.3 40 speed). It's a combination that often has a wicked effect. Just ask Arizona. Last year, when the Trojans played the Wildcats, according to one UA assistant, Mays knocked three 'Zona players out of the game. While Mays is the most recognizable name on the USC team and that could get him some generous preseason Heisman hype, in his first three seasons his game hasn't been snaring lots of INTs and that's probably the only way he'd have to really get in the discussion.
- Rob Gronkowski, Arizona TE: A 6-6, 265-pound junior, The Gronk is a matchup nightmare for defenses and the biggest reason why 'Zona went from having the Pac-10's No. 9 red zone offense to No. 1 last season. Their bread and butter was to line up three receivers on one side of the formation and split Gronkowski out to the other and just let him beat his man inside. Ten of his 47 catches went for TDs and that was with him missing three games due to mono.
- Todd Reesing, Kansas QB: It's not hard to overlook a QB in the Big 12 when you have Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy and a whole bunch of others putting up ridiculous stats. It's also not hard to overlook a QB when he's 5-9 and playing for a non-traditional power, like Reesing at Kansas. Still, no one is grittier than the little Texan, who last year passed for almost 4,000 yards and had 32 TDs against just 13 INTs.
- Jerry Hughes, TCU DE: Nobody had heard of this guy at this time last year, but Hughes had a breakout 2008 season, forcing six fumbles and leading the nation with 15 sacks for a very good Horned Frogs defense. Scarier still is that when teammates are asked who has been the biggest surprise this spring, some say Hughes because they feel like he's worked so hard to get that much better in 2009.
- Rolando McClain, Alabama LB: A Butkus Award finalist last season as a sophomore, McClain plays in a storied program coming off a very good season. He should be in the mix for Butkus honors again, but it's a long shot he would generate much Heisman traction.
- Colin Kaepernick, Nevada QB: One of the more exciting players in the country, Kaepernick is a dual-threat QB unlike any other around. At 6-6, 215, he is running threat somewhat in the mold of former Arkansas QB Matt Jones yet he is a better passer. Last season, Kaepernick threw for 22 TDs and just 7 INTs and passed for 370 yards in a 42-35 bowl loss to Maryland. Heady stuff for a guy who also has run for 240 yards in a game (UNLV) and had two runs for over 60 yards last season and a bunch over 30.
- Mark Herzlich, Boston College LB: A rangy 6-4, 238-pound do-everything linebacker, Herzlich, the ACC's reigning Defensive Player of the Year has been aided playing behind two great defensive tackles in Ron Brace and B.J. Raji. Both are gone now, but word out of BC is that Herzlich looks like an even bigger force for the Eagles, making plays all over the field. Last season, Herzlich shined in all facets of play, leading BC with 110 tackles, had six INTs, eight passes broken up and 13 tackles for loss.
- Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska DT: This guy emerged last season as a star for the Huskers, becoming the first lineman to lead the team in tackles in 35 years. The downside is even if the Huskers somehow come out and have a storybook 2009 and win the Big 12, it's crazy to think a defensive lineman would get most of the credit.
• An update on the progress of Army LT-turned-WR Ali Villanueva, the 6-10, 297-pound project of new coach Rich Ellerson: Villanueva caught a 38-yard TD pass and had another 22-yard reception in the Black/Gold Game.
"Ali is a real big target, and it's pretty hard to miss him," said QB Max Jenkins.
• DeAndre Brown's rehab from his gruesome broken leg seems to be coming along well, Patrick Magee writes:
"He's got a smile on his face wherever he's at," USM coach Larry Fedora told Magee. "He told me a couple of days ago that he was faster than he was. How he knows that with a boot on, I have no idea."
Magee writes: "Brown has spent a lot of time in the weightroom after dropping some 30 pounds following the surgery. He is now back up to 221 pounds and his bench press has improved from 315 to 340 pounds. Said Brown: 'Hopefully, I can come back out there and make a few crushing blocks and run a couple of people over.'"
If Brown hadn't sustained his broken leg, he would've been on the Top 10 list above.To go around the college football landscape with Bruce Feldman, become an ESPN Insider.
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